Brad Fittler has been slammed for a “complete overreaction” after the NSW coach made seven changes ahead of State of Origin game two.
Fittler overhauled his Blues squad for the match in Perth, calling Matt Burton, Angus Crichton, Clint Gutherson, Jordan McLean, Victor Radley, Siosifa Talakai and Jake Trbojevic into camp.
NSW were stunned in the series opener – their first home game in two years – as Queensland won 16-10 in front of 80,000 fans in Sydney.
The Blues went within centimetres of sending the game to golden point when Isaah Yeo was stopped just short as time expired.
The Daily Telegraph’s Phil Rothfield has called the mass changes completely unnecessary and asked former NSW coach Laurie Daley if he would have done the same.
“Well I’d like to ask Laurie a question,” Rothfield told Sky Racing’s Big Sport Breakfast.
“If you lost one game by a converted try, would you make seven changes? Seriously.
“It’s a complete overreaction and it is complete panic.”
Laurie Daley who coached the Blues from 2013 through to 2017 agreed with Rothfield to an extent.
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“I probably wouldn’t have made that many changes but what I would have done Buzz I would’ve had a couple of those players in there in Game I,” Daley replied.
Rothfield was satisfied with some of Fittler’s inclusions but said they were only corrections of his game one squad.
“Well they’re correcting mistakes, but I look at it this way, Burton had to come in for Wighton because Wighton’s got covid,” Rothfield said.
“We all agree Burton’s been sensational.
“I think Koroisau on the bench is a very, very good move because Damien Cook is doing so much defence, he’s burning up his juice and he’s not the attacking player he once was.
“The other one I like is that they’ve corrected their mistakes from the first game and they’ve brought Jake Turbo (Trbojevic) into the side but for the life of me I can’t understand why there’s been so many changes.
“I’m not just talking about the starting 17.
“That 22 man squad, how has Victor Radley made the squad.
“He hasn’t played for six weeks, he was down on the NRL’s injury list as not returning from syndesmosis till Round 19 anyway.
“How has Angus Crichton got a spot on the bench?
“The Roosters are outside the top eight, they’ve been playing like busters, they haven’t even registered his contract for next year, which shows how well he’s going.”
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The omission of Eels forward Ryan Matterson and not selecting Bulldogs flyer Josh Addo-Carr saw Rothfield question the fairness of the squad’s overall selection process.
“I’m convinced that Freddy and Brandy picked this side before they saw Ryan Matterson play on Saturday night in that magnificent Parramatta win over the Roosters.
“If I was going to try and find another edge forward to come into that side and I’m not just doing it because he set up to score the match winning try yesterday, Hudson Young in the last six weeks at the Raiders has been so superior in form to Angus Crichton.
“You are also 100% correct in that Addo-Carr should be in this side.
“I am really, really concerned that the series will be over, I don’t like the side at all and I know we have not a responsibility but I want New South Wales to win, I’m desperate for New South Wales to win but I cannot understand for the life of me the panic around this team.”
Another Blues player that faced the chopping board was Broncos centre Kotoni Staggs, who was dropped from the side following his Origin debut.
Maroons great Gorden Tallis believed his exclusion from the Blues squad was a harsh call from Fittler, calling him to question Burton’s inclusion.
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“I don’t think that they used him right,” Tallis told Triple M.
“I tell you what I wouldn’t want to mark him.
“If I got caught out on an edge and there’s Kotoni Staggs in front of me or Matt Burton, I would dread having Kotoni Staggs.”
English rugby league great James Graham agreed with Tallis, urging Fittler to give the 23-year-old time to get used to the Origin arena.
“Kotoni Staggs I think he would be so much better second time round,” James Graham said.
“He’s not going in with that emotional drain of Origin, it’s my first one, all the pressure, he’s been there done that now.
“I think that next time round Kotoni Staggs gets a chance his performance is far better and also his teammates know how to get or would be better at getting the best out of him moving forward.”
The Blues will be eager to level the series when they take on the Maroons on Sunday at Perth’s Optus Stadium.